Several school districts in Douglas County were told by state officials that they cannot start on-site instruction for all grades due to a recent increase in COVID-19 cases in Douglas County.

Riddle School District planned to fully reopen Monday, but on Sunday afternoon a message was sent out to the community that it had to delay. Superintendent Dave Gianotti said he was frustrated by this decision.

“I tried to fight this and got nowhere,” Gianotti said. Riddle remains open for in-person learning for kindergarten through third grade and for smaller cohorts of special education students.

Oregon Department of Education Assistant Superintendent Scott Nine said the state was made aware on Sept. 17 that there was a discrepancy between the school districts’ understanding of the health metrics and the state’s interpretation of that guidance.

School districts in Douglas County were given the green light to reopen by the Douglas Public Health Network on Sept. 9, when the county was meeting those metrics. Currently the county is not meeting the metrics to start in-person education for all grade levels.

“It’s not about this, for lack of a better term, permanent green light. Instead it’s this window until the metrics change,” Nine said. “The department recognizes this can be frustrating and challenging, both for schools trying to plan and for families. But the reason, the rationale for those metrics, is that it gives us insight about what type of, particularly where there’s unexplained community spread. Where you want to slow down and pause.”

During a meeting Wednesday, officials from the Oregon Health Authority and Oregon Department of Education determined that because there were more than 10 cases per 100,000 people in Douglas County, schools would be unable to fully reopen for in-person learning.

“I am truly upset at this decision,” Gianotti said in a message to parents.

Douglas County Public Health Official Dr. Bob Dannenhoffer referred to the state for comments on school reopening metrics. Nine said Dannenhoffer was in the meeting yesterday and made the comment that “None of us lived through a pandemic before” when the misunderstanding was brought up.

Several other schools also planned to start in-person education Monday, including North Douglas and Glide school districts. Elkton School Districts will have to push back intended reopening dates for the school.

"Grades 4-12 will remain in Comprehensive Distance Learning until we get confirmation from Douglas County Health and the Oregon Department of Education that we can open," Elkton Superintendent Andy Boe wrote on the school's Facebook page Thursday. "This change comes as a result of incorrect information given to us by both ODE and Douglas County Health as we formulated our re-opening plan. I regret the late notice of this announcement and the hardship it brings upon families."

Nine said he was unsure of plans for reopening in the Winston-Dillard School District. Winston-Dillard Superintendent Kevin Miller did not immediately return a phone call from The News-Review.

School districts that started in-person education during the window when the county was meeting state health metrics can remain open. Once there are more than 20 cases per 100,000, schools will need to start planning a return to distance learning. If there are more than 30 cases per 100,000 in Douglas County, all school districts will have to participate in comprehensive distance learning for all grades.

“There is this intentional kind of buffering,” Nine said. “These windows are to basically be aware and communicate to families in case you need to transition out of fully in-person.”

Exceptions for in-person learning apply to kindergarten through third grade, special education, career technical education, English language learners and a select group of other students who require in-person education. Students who fall under those exceptions can go to school if there are no more than 30 cases per 100,000 people in the county.

The Oregon Department of Education and Oregon Health Authority worked throughout the summer to create statewide guidance on reopening schools, called Ready Schools, Safe Learners.

The guidance started with going over safety protocols inside schools that have to be met, such as social distancing standards, face coverings and cleaning protocols.

In late July, state officials announced that in order to reopen safely all schools also had to follow certain health metrics. School districts must abide by both the Ready Schools, Safe Learners and health metrics guidelines in order to reopen.

The health metrics, although there are some exceptions, consist of meeting three main criteria for a seven day period for three consecutive weeks:

  1. The state test positivity rate has to be at, or below, 5%.
  2. The county test positivity rate has to be at, or below, 5%.
  3. There can be no more than 10 cases per 100,000 people in the county.

According to numbers released by the Oregon Health Authority, the statewide test positivity percentage has been above 5% for the past two weeks. The county’s test positivity number was at 5%, but the number of cases was 18.7 per 100,000.

School districts were informed Thursday morning that the test positivity rating will not be included in the state health metrics for the remainder of September, due to a shortage in testing and impact from the wildfires.

On Sept. 17, the Adrian School District filed a lawsuit against Oregon Department of Education Director Colt Gill and Oregon Health Authority Director Patrick Allen to express its frustration in how their school district is required to educate amid the global pandemic.

The lawsuit states, “If the children are not immediately returned to in-person instruction, immediate and irreparable harm will be caused to the school district’s resources,” and “if the children are not immediately returned to in-person instruction, immediate and irreparable harm will be incurred by the students in the form of reduced quality of instruction.”

Adrian is a small town with a population less than 1,000 and a school district with 295 students located in Malheur County. Malheur County is the second largest county in Oregon, by size, and has had a test positivity percentage of more than 25% for the past nine weeks. The COVID-19 cases in that county have exceeded 300 per 100,000 for the past eight weeks.

The lawsuit calls the state-wide plan impractical, arbitrary and capricious, and asks that authority to open schools be turned over to local school boards.

The lawsuit was received by Gill and Allen on Wednesday and they will have 30 days to respond.

Sanne Godfrey can be reached at sgodfrey@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4203. Follow her on Twitter @sannegodfrey.

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Mike

Be Forewarned. Roseburg's Veterans Affairs appears to be currently undergoing a workplace outbreak. Numerous staff and employees have recently tested positive for coronavirus.

Melly

I just cancelled my appointment at the VA-thank you Mike for the update and thank you for your continued rectification of DPHN reporting.

Mike

Have you talked to someone at the VA who has an update. Unfortunately, the DPHN and local medias appear to avoid publicizing workplace outbreaks like this that could affect the health of many people in our counties. It's only weeks afterwards that we find out about it from the Oregon Health Authority, who by the way, get their information from the County.

Mike

For those of you wondering about the honesty of our County Commissioners when it comes to re-opening our schools, let me give you this to ponder. On September 5, our County Commissioners published a report, email and press release (below link) congratulating themselves on their fine leadership for keeping the county positive test rate under 1% for 4 weeks in a row.

http://douglaspublichealthnetwork.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/09-05-2020-DCCRT-DAILY-UPDATE-COVID-19.pdf

Now for the truth. The Oregon Health Authority publishes a weekly “school metrics” report (below link) that tracks each County’s 7-day positive test rate. The school metrics report illustrates Douglas County’s positive test rate was below 1% for only TWO of the last eleven weeks, NOT 4 weeks in a row. It is this type of untruthful and misleading information being fed to the public that endangers County children and increases the potential that more misinformed people will die in our county.

https://www.oregon.gov/oha/PH/DISEASESCONDITIONS/DISEASESAZ/Emerging%20Respitory%20Infections/Weekly-County-Metrics.pdf

Our County Commissioners appear less interested in providing truthful information than issuing press releases telling everyone about the fine job they are doing while organizing anti-mask rallies. Meanwhile, 4 county residents so far have died of this disease. One only wonders how many more residents have to die before the Commissioners stop patting themselves on the back.

Mike

The Roseburg Veterans Affairs reported 2 more new coronavirus cases this afternoon and 4 cases over the past two days, 2 of which are employees. This brings Roseburg VA’s total cases to 31.

https://www.accesstocare.va.gov/Healthcare/COVID19NationalSummary

TJ

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Mike

After nearly 7 months, Douglas County is currently the 9th lowest Oregon County for coronavirus testing, having tested 11.4% of its residents. Oregon, at 15.3%, is the 2nd lowest State in the United States which has tested 30.6% of US residents. This appears to be our County Commissioner’s version of striving to be #1.

Out of 213 countries, the USA currently has the 10th highest per capita coronavirus death rate in the world. At its current pace, the USA will pass Ecuador for 9th place in the next two weeks. This appears to be our President’s version of making America #1.

https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country

Umpquabob

Mike, how can you trust your won statistics. It seems just about everything being reported is inflated or twisted in order to grab a few more federal dollars. An example is the person from here who was visiting Texas and who died in Texas and was counted in Texas and Douglas County. Then ther's the 26 yr old who was declared to have died of covid and later it was determined he didn't have covid. Then there are the cases of heart attacks, stage 4 cancer, etc., who may or may not have been successfully tested for covid and were labeled a covid death which isn't true. I have spoke with medical professionals who just shake their heads and admit the hospitals are inflating their stats. Then there is the political and fake news involvement in the issue. How can one really know what is going on. Doesn't anyone tell accurate truth any more?

Mike

That's a question I suggest you ask our Commissioners. I wouldn't need to post information if I thought their dishonesty wasn't leading people to a false sense of security and endangering lives.

Mike

The Douglas County COVID-19 Response Team reported 2 new coronavirus cases today, giving Douglas County a total of 223 cases and 4 deaths. The Oregon Health Authority reported Douglas County had three new cases and has 224 total cases.

The new cases correspond to the 2 new cases reported since yesterday by the Roseburg VA which now has reported a total of 29 cases. Roseburg VA’s most recent case was an employee and is the 5th employee or staff member to have been diagnosed with the disease. Because of this, the Oregon health Authority will most likely next week report Roseburg’s VA as a workplace outbreak.

Including Norris Blueberry Farm, Romtec, Mercy Medical Center, Umpqua Valley Nursing Center and Roseburg Forest Products, the Roseburg VA will be Douglas County’s 6th workplace outbreak. In each case, our Douglas County Commissioners knew about these workplace outbreaks for weeks but failed to warn the public of these health threats. Each time, the Oregon Health Authority’s report, weeks after the outbreak, is how we found out the health threat existed. Our County Commissioners were probably too busy planning their next anti-mask rally to keep schools closed to bother notifying us Douglas County residents of the health threat.

The Douglas County COVID-19 Response Team has reported 24 coronavirus cases and received 484 test results over the past week. Dividing 24 cases by 484 test results gives a 7-day positive test rate of 5.0% for Douglas County today.

The six counties surrounding Douglas County reported 62 new coronavirus cases today and a RECORD high 342 cases and 4 deaths over the past week.

The Oregon Health Authority reported 362 new coronavirus cases and 1 death today. The 7-day positive test rate for Oregon increased to an all-time RECORD high 7.3%

Mike

According to the Oregon Health Authority, the Umpqua Valley Nursing and Rehabilitation Center is the first senior care facility in Douglas County to be declared a congregate care facility outbreak with three staff members or residents confirmed by testing to have coronavirus. Umpqua Valley’s first case occurred 24 days ago. However, the public was never notified by our County Commissioners who were probably too busy planning their next anti-mask rally at the courthouse. We had to wait until the OHA published their report yesterday to find out about the health threat in our own county.

https://www.oregon.gov/oha/PH/DISEASESCONDITIONS/DISEASESAZ/Emerging%20Respitory%20Infections/COVID-19-Weekly-Report-2020-09-23-FINAL.pdf

Mike

Correction: The six counties surrounding Douglas County reported a RECORD high 354 cases and 4 deaths over the past week.

sectorstar

Covid 19 Task Force Chris Boice: Wear a mask and obey the guidelines!

Anti-Mask Rally Chris Boice: Don't wear a mask and don't obey the guidelines!

Will the real Chris Boice please stand up here? Though I am amused by the task force's new tactic with the recent cases where they just blame the public now automatically for it. I think the problem is the majority of the citizens are unaware of the fact that the County Covid task force team is lead by the commissioners. Boice is good at blaming people whenever things make him look bad, so that right away gives himself away that hes on the team.

TJ

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Mike

Commissioner Boice was interviewed on radio (below link) about coronavirus restrictions and can be heard saying, “Some folks don’t want to wear a mask…I COMMEND a lot of those folks.”

https://kqennewsradio.com/wp-content/uploads/IDC-8-26-20.mp3

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